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Smith, Schow lead announcement of new tourism strategy

Posted on February 26, 2024 by admin

By Cal Braid
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

On Feb. 14, Premier Danielle Smith and Minister of Tourism and Sport, Joseph Schow, hosted a news conference to relay news of a long-term provincial tourism strategy.

“Alberta already has the assets that we need to sustain a strong tourism industry for decades to come,” Smith said, “but our government has a far more ambitious vision for the future of Alberta’s tourism.” She said the strategy aims to sustainably grow the province’s tourism economy. It targets spotlighting smaller communities, increasing air and road access, and easing labour shortages.

The accompanying press release said that in 2022 Alberta saw a record $10.7 billion in tourism spending, with an increase of $600 million from 2019 levels. Smith said the province wants to see that figure grow to $25 billion by 2035. The ministry wants to promote all-season resorts and increase air travel from the U.S., Europe and Asia. Indigenous tourism will also be prioritized, making it easier for those in the sector to access capital for larger projects. The strategy will focus on five key pillars: leadership and alignment, competitive product, people and careers, expansion of access and Indigenous tourism.

“When our economy grows, it offers more opportunity and improves everyone’s way of life,’ Smith said. Minister Schow said that the province has created a new immigration stream to help fill labour gaps and will work with post-secondary institutions to help guide students towards the tourism industry. He re-emphasized the importance of Indigenous tourism.

Shae Bird, CEO of Indigenous Tourism Alberta, took the mic and said, “Indigenous tourism has the power to be a driver of social benefits to both Indigenous entrepreneurs and communities. (It) can be a tool for reconciliation in action, allowing for Indigenous people across Alberta to share their story authentically and with their voice.” He said there’s an opportunity and demand for Indigenous cultures to share diverse, authentic tourism experiences. In turn, it can help revitalize culture, preserve language and create opportunities for Indigenous youth.

By implementing the strategy, Alberta’s visitor economy could see a cumulative economic impact of $203 billion in visitor expenditures, a $159 billion impact to the province’s GDP and 190,000 full-time equivalent jobs by 2035, the press release said. In 2022, Alberta saw 32 million person visits and generated billions in spending. The release said it supported more than 80,000 full-time equivalent jobs in that same period.

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